Right now, spirituality is a struggle for many of us.
I’ve recently been following Jon Steingard, former lead singer of Christian band Hawk Nelson, on social media. If you know me, it’s not surprising – I follow most of my favorite musicians on several platforms. But it’s Jon Steingard that I’ve followed most closely lately.
Jon Shares His Struggles
In recent months he’s shared a lot in regard to his faith and the struggle he’s been facing. In the first of many posts, he outwardly declared that he’d stopped believing in God – and that really shook me.
Jon wrote, “I’m open to the idea that God is there. I’d prefer it if he was. I suspect if he is there, he is very different than what I was taught. I know my parents pray that God reveals himself to me. If he’s there, I hope he does.”
Since making that statement, he’s shared the thoughts and questions he’s faced as an evangelical Christian. How he could no longer reconcile believing in a loving God when so much evil exists. His questions were deep and quite similar to questions I have wrestled with over the years.
When Spirituality Is A Struggle For You
Most recently, like Jon, I’ve found myself questioning what to do when it feels like God isn’t there. And, as a youth pastor in a local church, it has me questioning the effectiveness of my leadership when I have questions like this.
I’m a feeling person, I like to be moved emotionally. I love when a song hits me a certain way, when goosebumps rise, when I can’t sing for the lump in my throat. To me, that means God is moving – the Spirit is working in me. When that doesn’t happen, and it’s been more often than not, lately, I begin to wonder if my faith is strong enough. If, maybe I’m doing something wrong – if maybe God isn’t really as close as I once thought.
But, I’ve learned there can be danger in relying solely on those emotional experiences.
I recently finished Brant Hansen’s book Blessed are the Misfits. In the fifth chapter – Blessed are the Unfeeling Faithful – he writes, “If I mistake my impression, or my feelings, for the real God, I’m committing idolatry. If I mistake God’s gifts, however profound, experiential, or soothing, for God Himself, I’m committing idolatry. In Scripture, He clearly didn’t want His people worshipping a mere impression of Him. Not because He is distant and unknowable, but because He is ever close. We don’t need to worship images if we have the Real Thing. And the Real Thing does not promise a weekly sensory experience of His presence. Biblically, there’s no basis for expecting such a thing.”
It’s in this that I’ve found freedom to keep searching within my faith, to keep digging and learning how to best follow Jesus. Because, only then can I effectively lead my students to be followers of Jesus as well.
In the wake of Jon Steingard’s post, I’ve talked about doubts with my students, sharing some of my own. And I’ve assured my students it’s okay to have questions about God. We’re not meant to have all the answers and God is big enough to handle the questions we throw around. Seeking God’s presence is the very essence of what faith is all about. We believe He’s there even if we don’t feel Him, see Him, or hear Him.
I’ve also found, in welcoming these struggles, and openly discussing them with my students it makes me a better youth leader. It’s in that transparency that my students will learn to open up about their own faith to allow me to grow through their shared experiences.
Sarah Taylor has been the youth director at Gulf Cove United Methodist Church in Port Charlotte, Florida, since 2017. She has a Master’s Degree in Youth Ministry from Wesley Seminary as well as a Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing. She loves books and writing, has a borderline obsession with Harry Potter and Gilmore Girls, and loves Cherry Pepsi. She lives in North Port, Florida, with her 14-year-old cat, Milo.